|Title||Addressing Arsenic Poisoning in South Asia|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2012|
|Authors||Ashok J Gadgil, Joyashree Roy, Susan E Addy, Adhijit Das, Amit Dutta, Anupam DebSarkar|
|Journal||The Solutions Journal|
|Keywords||Community, environment, health|
About 100 million people in Bangladesh and in the nearby Indian state of West Bengal are exposed to very high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater, which is their main source of drinking water. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum contaminant limit (MCL) for arsenic in drinking water of 10 µg/liter; in some areas of Bangladesh arsenic levels are as high as 800 µg/liter. This has rightly been called the largest case of mass poisoning in the history of mankind. Recent research indicates that chronic arsenic exposure is the underlying cause of about 20 percent of adult deaths in Bangladesh. Despite 20 years of public knowledge about arsenic-bearing drinking water in rural West Bengal and Bangladesh, as of 2006 less than 1 percent of the exposed population had access to arsenic-remediated drinking water. Our own field visits during 2008-2012 indicate that the situation has not changed much in recent years.
To meet this challenge requires both effective technology and sensitivity to social dynamics. A technology invented in Berkeley for affordable and reliable arsenic remediation of ground water has been successfully tested in a community in West Bengal, and steps towards its successful establishment and social acceptance are under way by engaging local government, nonprofits, and local community and opinion leaders.